Growing up, I remember hearing the phrase ‘innocent until proven guilty’ over and over. My parents were not lawyers but we knew a lot of them. Plus, it seemed that all of the mystery shows we watched used the phrase.
My favorite show at the time was Magnum PI with Tom Selleck (and his red Ferrari!) One show stands out in my mind. Someone had been accused of something horrible. Magnum made it his job to prove whether or not that person’s involvement was, in fact, actually true.
Many people jumped onto the bandwagon because ‘everyone knew’ that the person was guilty. But, after careful investigation, Magnum proved the person’s innocence. The right person was found, the accused person was ‘let off the hook’, and they all lived happily ever after.
TV shows are great like that: they introduce a point of drama or tension and in 40 minutes wrap the whole thing up in a pretty bow. Life is rarely that ‘clean’ and the fallout of false accusations is very real.
One aspect of technology is the speed at which life moves. Not too long ago, it took phone calls to move information from one person to another. Now, a text chain can include dozens of people with little time to for buffering, for thought.
In addition, because we can’t always see the creators of the ‘news’ or the comment, we can’t read body language or see the person generating the comments/events. There is both anonymity and the ability shape the conversation, provide only the points you want rather than the fuller, truer picture.
All of this, added to our human desire to be a part of ‘the tribe’, can rev the group engine way up in positive or negative ways. And, once whatever the emotional response is (and, let’s be honest, the first response is always the emotional one), it takes a lot of courage on someone’s part to question the veracity of the direction or pose a ‘what if’ moment.
Guilty or Innocent
So, when something goes bad, we can rush to judgement or we can patiently uncover the facts. We can jump to blame or ask questions to understand. We can fan the flames or search for clarity.
The former, in all of those phrases, is a lot easier. Especially when we are young without much experience or older and in ‘protection mode’ of a loved one. I get it and have been guilty of this rush to judgement, too.
It’s a pattern of thought we’ve got to actively fight.
What happens when someone is falsely accused? In the past, when information did not move at light speed, things had time to fall from memory somewhat quickly. Now, because the emotion and intensity of communication, the fallout lasts a great deal longer and is more destructive.
Friendships are strained and broken. Feelings are hurt. Trust is lost. And that last one is probably the biggest issue. When falsely accused by someone and then having a community of people pile on, the falsely accused no longer feels trusted in many cases. And that destroys the ability to be a part of the group.
So, what do we do? I propose it’s time to go back to that relatively old idea: innocent until proven guilty. With our family, our friends, our acquaintances, those we barely know, and those we may not even like. Why? Because that is how you’d want to be treated… and it’s the right thing to do.
Have a great weekend!